01 July 2019

Tell us your story

This report from the Australian Law Reform Commission summarised the key themes of the personal experiences of individuals who used the family law system and their opinions of it to help inform the Commission's understanding of the real world impacts and consequences of the existing family law and the activities of associated institutions. A large number of complaints were received with the court system and procedures; lawyers' and judges being most likely to be a subject of complaint. Complaints against the court system focused on a range of issues including the emotional and financial toll taken on those using the system; that it exacerbates parental conflict; there is an inadequate focus on the interests of children; poor understanding and lack of safeguards around family violence; traumatising questioning; lack of enforcement of orders and parenting plans; lack of evidence required to support accusations; no independent complaints system and inadequate support services. Complaints against lawyers involved their conduct (not acting in clients' interests, incentivised to escalate or create disputes); competence (no competence or sensitivity to family violence, child abuse, trauma, mental health issues); and costs. Complaints against judges stated they were unsympathetic, berated parties and made inappropriate comments, displayed inappropriate mateship and favouritism towards counsel, had not read documents, affidavits etc; lack of training and competence in family law and particularly family violence and they are not accountable.